Third Sunday after the Epiphany, January 23, 2011
Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin
The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, D.Min., Rector
Matthew 4: 12-23
Proclaim the Kingdom of God
Preaching the Gospel this morning is a challenge in Green Bay Packers country. Our minds are focused on today’s football game between the Packers and the Chicago Bears. Yesterday in a friendly conversation I was reminded, “Father, it all depends on you if you will send us home on time to watch football.” We are aware of the historical importance of this game as two rivals will play this afternoon through bitter cold and wind in Soldier Field in Chicago. "When I think of Green Bay and Chicago, I think of football at its best," said former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary. I promise to let you go home to watch the football game on time this afternoon. So, please give your attention to hear the gospel message.
Here in the gospel we hear, after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus begins to proclaim that the Kingdom of heaven is drawing near. It is a message of good news. This good news is not about the other world, but announces God’s sovereign rule coming “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus is not talking about the future plan for salvation. Rather about the contemporary action plan for the church, to fish for human beings. It is telling about Jesus to others. The gospel today invites us to be the evangelist of the church. I know for many of us religion is a private matter as it is not our practice to share our faith with others. We sometimes talk about our church, but that is different from talking about our faith.
Rev. Francis wade, former rector of St. Alban Church in Washington, D.C. calls it the Goglakian School of Evangelism. He just made up this term. He named it for Charles Gogolak who was kicker for the Washington Redskins. He says, “Now kickers in the National Football League are normally very small people in the midst of very large people. Gogolak was no exception. One of his responsibilities was kicking off to opposing teams. As is the custom with most kickers, when the offensive and defensive lines charge one another on the kickoff, the kicker hangs back, avoiding the mayhem of the much larger people. On one particular occasion, the person who received the kickoff managed to break through the Redskins line, leaving Gogolak standing alone between him and the goal. Gogolak looked very much like a bug with a windshield hastening toward him. It was truly a terrible moment. After the game, Gogolak, was asked by the reporter, “What were you thinking?” Charlie’s immortal words that give his name to the Gogolakian School of Evangelism were, “Isn’t someone else supposed to be doing this?” That response represents pretty well the way that most of us approach evangelism. Someone else supposed to be doing it, but not me.” We present many reasons and excuses.
For some, evangelism does not enjoy good press. For many it has overtones of manipulation. We may say that a balanced, thoughtful church should have nothing to do with it. Or, it is not for the lay person in the pews. It is the responsibility of the theological trained folks like me in the pulpit. Father Wade would say that Evangelism is two percent education and ninety-eight percent location. Therefore, we are the ones who need to speak out, because we are the ones who are here to do it, not because we are best qualified. Look at those persons Jesus calls. They are untrained, with little education, smelly fishermen called to the business of evangelism.
We may give all kinds of reasons and excuses that religion is personal, but it is by no means private. The thing about all biblical experience of God is that it never stays merely “intransitive” (something that happens to you and stays there). It always has a “transitive” dynamic (it has to affect somebody or something else). Look how the Christian movement began. In the Gospels we read that Andrew was directed by John the Baptist to follow Jesus. He later goes on to tell his brother, “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew is the first evangelist of the Christian era. His brother will go down in history as Simon Peter.
Here in the gospel story today Simon Peter, Andrew and later James and John responded to the call of Jesus straightaway. The Greek eutheos indicates a direct response. These fishermen did not pause to think; they did not conduct surveys, consult their families or check bank balances. Jesus called and they responded.
I believe some of you may be saying in your hearts, “Rector now finish this sermon.” So, let me come back to the football story. Rev. Wade tells one other piece of the Charlie Gogolak story. “He ran across the field on that kickoff wondering to himself, “Isn’t someone else supposed to be doing this?” And with that thought in his head he made the tackle. I do not remember if it saved the game or the season; I doubt that spring came any earlier because of it, or that life was significantly improved, but he did it and so can we.
We are the ones Jesus calls to “Fish for people” (Fishers of men). There is a world of people who need the truth that you and I have. We are gospel people to bring good news to a world where bad news is depressingly endemic. The Kingdom of God will only draw near if you and I proclaim by word and example the good news in Christ which, as said by C. H. Spurgeon, is “One beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.”
 N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, HaprerOne, New York, 2008, p.18.
 The Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade, Beyond the Ordinary in the Kingdom of God, Forward Movement Publications, 1990. Pp.19-23
 Chistopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People, Zondervan, 2010